Ekphrastic Writing Responses: Berthe Morisot
Guest Editor’s note: A big thank you to editor Lorette C. Luzajic for trusting me to step into her shoes for this challenge. I also wish to thank all the writers who participated. I asked you to give Berthe Morisot the attention she deserves, and you exceeded my expectations. I made the job harder on myself by deciding to narrow my choices to a top ten. The writing kept pouring in and pouring in. I was impressed by the range, volume, and quality of the submissions. Your varied backgrounds were just as amazing as the writing itself.
When I hear “poet,” I usually expect an author, teacher, tutor, or librarian, but we come from all walks of life. I heard from one or more nurse, mechanical engineer, psychiatrist, historian, minister, and police officer from seven or more countries. One author had never written an ekphrastic poem before. Another had written to the challenges, but never dared to send her writing in. More and more readers are gravitating to poetry. The Forward Book of Poetry 2020 reports that poetry in the UK has experienced “an unprecedented boom, with sales up 50 percent over five years and a record 1.3m books sold in 2018, it seems everyone is reading poetry.” It appears there’s a similar boom in the number of people writing it.
Here’s to you, to poetry, and to the art that brings us all to The Ekphrastic Review!
Balconies are dangerous places
especially for children.
The rails may be low,
and it’s so easy to take a tumble.
So a mother watches always alert.
Balconies are dangerous places
too reminiscent of climbing frames
shouting out ‘climb me, yes you can!’
But it’s so easy to fall.
A mother must always stay alert.
And children are precocious with no sense
They know daddy always catches them.
But daddy is no longer there.
She looked away and he became one of the fallen.
A mother must always be alert.
Anyone can take a fall.
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud “War Poetry for Today” competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Vagabond Press, Light Journal and So It Goes Journal. Find Lynn at: lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
Listen to My Words
Listen to my words my little one.
Never be afraid to chase your dreams,
for you can be anything you want to be.
Be resolute in your determination
to out-stare the disapproving crowd
and never live your life
to other people's agendas.
Do you know why Mama likes to wear black?
It is because I am in mourning
for a life I was never allowed to lead.
Look at the city, the bustle and beauty,
the affluence and want.
It is bursting with opportunity -
if you were born to be a man!
You, my cherub, are my greatest achievement.
I will not give you the advice
my mother gave to me:
to marry well and do your husband's bidding.
I say to you, marry for love, not security.
Be your own woman and be known as such
so that when you are seen in the city
people will know who they are dealing with.
You will be admired and hated in equal measure
but refuse to be caged.
Learn all you can, have opinions and be outspoken
but do so with style and charm
while always retaining your femininity.
This will drive men mad.
Men bluster and flounder when
dealing with women they can't control.
Take life by the throat, my darling.
Strive to achieve your dreams
so you don't have to mourn
a life not led.
Stephen Poole served for 31 years in the Metropolitan Police in London, England. Passionate about poetry since boyhood, his poems have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry on the Lake, and The Strand Book of International Poets 2010.
There’s nothing more attractive in colour
than black and white. Have you ever seen
nuns in their black habits and white wimples
against the rich background of a park
in late summer?
Mrs. Manet, the woman painter,
the female impressionist the brotherhood
viewed with some resentment, captures
a moment of beauty and intimacy.
A woman and a child.
Both seem deep in thought, rather than
admiring the scene before them,
the river flowing wide and gentle,
the skyline unknown to us.
Even Sacré-Coeur had not yet been built.
No landmark gives away their position,
they are safe from Global Positioning Systems.
Has Auntie taken out her niece for a Sunday
afternoon walk? Is the young women a friend
of Mum? Perhaps it’s the child who shows
the woman the view from ‘her’ balcony?
We can only guess, but Berthe Morisot
allows us a glimpse into a world
where frantic busy-ness does not
interrupt a languid afternoon.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and Tangents, a full-length poetry collection published in the UK in 2011, she was three times winner of the Goodreads monthly competition. Recent poetry collections: From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden 1939-1949: A Child’s Journey and Peru Blues or Lady Gaga Won’t Be Back. Her latest full-length poetry MS, The Rain Girl, will be published by Chaffinch Press end August 2020.
Though Madame leans on a terrace rail above
the vista of a distant city scene,
her gaze seems inward. What’s she thinking of,
her lovely face contemplative, serene?
A plinth and urn of roses near at hand
suggest a cemetery on that hill,
for everywhere, it seems, the dead command
the best and highest views. Each flounce and frill
of her black gown and bonnet signal grief.
So, mourning then, beside a little girl
who is the legacy of love too brief,
more priceless than an everlasting pearl.
Absent the sun, the sky a flattened gray
casts no shadows on this shadowed day.
A recent winner in the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest, Barbara Loots looks forward to the publication this year of her third collection, The Beekeeper and other love poems. Find her at barbaraloots.com
Drawing the Lines on Gender
I did not create the cage,
but the scene as I see it.
A young child, a lioness
trapped in portrait,
narrow eyes confined
powerless, the Seine
flowing out of reach.
Soft bristles catch
the glint, a smirk of gilt
caught on face
of Sacre-Coeur’s dome,
the tumble of titian spilt
on white-washed smock
like sparks of unrest.
I angle mama,
the bend of her waist
poised like a question
and stroke the mourn,
allow a snatch of flesh
to glance through net.
I did not create the cage
but define the lines on gender.
Kate Young lives in Kent with her husband and has been passionate about poetry since childhood. Over the last few years she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in webzines in Britain and internationally. She is a regular reader of The Ekphrastic Review and her work has appeared in response to some of the challenges. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
Berthe Morisot to Eugene Manet, 1883
It is early morning and Julie stirs.
Your bare feet slap the floor. You fetch her
to our bed. Our squirmy, fledgling redbird.
Her whispers make me smile while I feign sleep.
You ask about her dreams, if the rabbits
wore their bustles. If they wore proper shoes
upon their paws. She says the rabbits want
grass on their toes but bees abound and sting.
In these little conversations with our daughter
you show me the stature of a man.
For every battle that I fight to be accepted
I am not armored as she is with your gold words.
Her trust in you is rapier and lance, all dragons
should beware. Young women raised with so much love
can walk through danger anywhere. Behind
my back are whispers, this marriage saved me from disgrace.
Let them think what they will. Edouard is brash.
We compete with brush and colour, space and light.
What you hold, Eugene, he never will. I could
paint Julie every day, and each time, a picture of your heart.
Ann Thornfield-Long has work in Artemis Journal, Silver Blade, Riddled with Arrows, Haiku Journal, Wordgathering, The Linnet’s Wings and other journals and anthologies. She is a retired nurse and first responder.
A Mother’s Advice to Her Daughter
Enjoy this quiet prelude to your life
For all too soon a man will win you o’er
And then he’ll leave to fight and go to war
Return to vent his anger on his wife
And you will bend to him to forestall strife
But he will choose to beat you all the more
No longer songs and flowers as before
(Know where to hide at times he bears a knife)
For men are little children from the start
You’ll be his toy and then he’ll break your heart
And you will lose your beauty and your youth
While he will find a young and tasty tart
Like me, you may find solace in your art
Forgive me child for telling you the truth
Now retired, Barbara Huntington, a closet poet her whole life, is still a bit shy to call herself one. Who but a poet would look at Morisot’s painting and decide that a French sonnet would be the best fit? After a busy and varied career, including technical writing, teaching science in inner city schools, and being a premedical advisor for 20 years, she’s focusing on poetry. Barbara has been previously published in The Ekphrastic Review, in Chachalaca Review, and in local (San Diego area) anthologies. She is about to begin her MFA program at San Diego State University. To learn more, visit her at BarbaraHuntington.com
When a man dies,
he leaves more than a woman
dressed in black weeds,
the colour of his child’s hair,
a flash of his smile in her expression,
a question always on her tongue,
he leaves a void in the teeming-city-world
gone the shield
against the tug of impudent hands,
the cushion against the cold stone
and rats running the gutters,
the squalor of cheap rented rooms.
Gone the light from the golden river,
the silver from the shining slate roofs
dull in the half-light of half-life,
the dusk of a day scarce begun,
with a bird-bright child,
a handful of shining memories,
watching the river slip beneath bridges
she will never dare cross.
Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France. Her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, Hedgerow Journal, Visual Verse, ink sweat and tears, Eye to the Telescope, Nightingale & Sparrow, the Drabble, Lucent Dreaming and The Ekphrastic Review. She has a well-stocked blog at janedougherty.wordpress.com/
The Balcony Rails of Paris
stand in cast iron witness to communes,
occupations, student uprisings,
terrorist bombings, and endless pigeon
Monsieur Hussmann designed them for
Napoleon III’s urban renewal.
The Parisians repaint them religiously,
every year or so. Perhaps under all
that black they’re red like the Egyptian tombs
once were, or sea green and blue like the walls
of Pompeii, or pink, or yellow. Drink enough
Bordeaux, and the scrollwork moves across the
visual field like the text on a billboard
in Times Square. Something about Descartes,
Existentialism, or Structuralism.
I can’t say for sure. My French is terrible.
Matthew Sisson's poetry has appeared in magazines and journals ranging from JAMA The Journal of The American Medical Association to the Harvard Review Online. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his book Please, Call Me Moby was published by the Pecan Grove Press, St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas. He is the former poetry editor of the trade journal Modern Steel Construction and has read his work on NPR’s On Point.
Woman and Child on a Balcony
Decades later she is a mother
sewing stars on pinafores, each little
jacket. On her own jackets, too, her coats.
Edward said things would be all right.
Each star, each pinafore—with each little
change in the orders, she knows nothing,
no matter what Edward said. Was it all right
when her sister left for Amsterdam?
The orders change, and no thing
is anything she knows. Goodbye,
when her sister left for Amsterdam.
Goodbye to that afternoon, goodbye
to anything she knew to be good. Bye,
she waved on the balcony where her mother
stood, too, the two of them that afternoon
in Paris, the bakery wafting up from below.
Mother's gone now. And from that balcony
the ubiquitous red flag. She should have left
Paris when they closed down the bakery.
We don’t know, though, whether to stay,
when to leave. Isn’t a red flag a red flag?
Stars everywhere on jackets and coats.
When do we know? Do we stay? Go?
Decades later she is the mother.
Andrea Hollander moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2011, after living for more than three decades in the Arkansas Ozarks, where she was innkeeper of a bed & breakfast for 15 years and the Writer-in-Residence at Lyon College for 22. Hollander’s fifth full-length poetry collection was a finalist for the Best Book Award in Poetry from the American Book Fest; her fourth was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; her first won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays appear widely in anthologies, college textbooks, and literary journals, including a recent feature in The New York Times Magazine. Other honours include two Pushcart Prizes (in poetry and literary nonfiction) and two fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2017, she initiated the Ambassador Writing Seminars, which she conducted in her home until the onslaught of COVID-19. Now she conducts them via Zoom. Her website is www.andreahollander.net.
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